Ending the long stand-off, Germany confirmed on Wednesday that it will send Leopard 2 heavy battle tanks to Ukraine. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced the decision, adding that the first tanks will reach Ukraine in three to four months. “This [shipment of tanks] will not happen sooner than in 3 to 4 months,” Pistorius said.
The plan is to send as many as 14 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany’s own stock. Berlin said it will also authorize other countries to re-export the German-made tanks.
The decision ends the stalemate that followed Germany’s indecision over requests by Poland and others to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
In Moscow, the authorities criticised Germany, saying the move to send the tanks to Ukraine is a ‘blatant provocation’. Moscow had earlier warned Berlin that the decision to send tanks to Ukraine will escalate the conflict further.
Kremlin said on Sunday the decision of Nato nations to further boost Ukraine firepower will lead to a ‘global catastrophe’.
What are Leopard-2 Battle Tanks?
Germany rolled the Leopard 2 heavy battle tanks into service in 1979 and it has been a heavily reliable tank since then. These tanks were heavily used in battles in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Syria. Leopard-2 has a range of about 500 km and it attains a top speed of 68 km per hour. The 120mm smooth bore gun is the main weapon fitted on this main battle tank, while it also has two coaxial light machine guns.
Why Does Ukraine Think It’s a Good Choice for Them?
First, Ukraine anticipates a tough Russian offensive to start when the winter is over. Kyiv calculates that it can stop Russia on its tracks and retake key regions if only it is armed with some 300 Leopard-2 main battle tanks. According to the Nato strategists, even around 200 Leopard tanks can tilt the balance in the war.
Second, most of Ukraine’s Nato friends are heavily using Leopard-2 tanks. If Germany approves re-export of tanks to Ukraine, Kyiv will be helped by countries like Poland, Spain and others. While Germany has more than 500 Leopard-2 tanks, Greece has about 250, and Spain and Turkey have more than 300 each.